The United States, which must face the challenges of a global scale, is faced with a shortage of military personnel in the ranks of its armed forces. This poses a threat to the country’s national security, Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, points out in his article.
From the Suwalki Gap to the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. military has no shortage of potential crises. However, perhaps the most serious challenge is right at their side, the author writes. We are talking about the steadily declining number of Americans able and willing to serve in the military. To maintain a military edge, the Pentagon needs to rethink how it attracts recruits and retains people in the armed forces, and prepare for future wars with smaller regular troops.
“Based on current trends, the forecasts look pretty bleak,” Bloomberg notes. – To achieve the goal of 1.3 million regular army personnel, the armed forces need to attract approximately 150,000 recruits to all six branches of the military. With only two months left in the fiscal year, the Pentagon is 15% behind its target. The most noticeable shortage of recruits is in the ground forces. As of June, since the beginning of 2022, 22 thousand recruits have come to serve in the ground forces, which is 60% less than the annual plan. By the end of the year, this type of troops may have only 445 thousand people, which is 40 thousand less than Congress prescribes.
As the article says, one of the reasons for this state of affairs is a rather tight job market, but a much more serious reason is the reduction in the pool of potential recruits. Due to rising rates of obesity and drug addiction, the proportion of Americans aged 17 to 24 who do not have medical contraindications for military service has fallen to just 23%. From this number, you subtract those who study in colleges, and only 12% remain. The Defense Department estimates that only 9% of those eligible to serve in the military are willing to pursue a military career, the lowest level since 2007, at the height of the war in Iraq.
“To fill the shortfall, the US military is offering $35,000 to all those recruits who begin basic military training within 45 days. Those wishing to join the armed forces will also be allowed to choose the type of troops where they would like to serve. Now young people also have the opportunity to serve a shorter term – two years of regular service instead of the standard four, ” Bloomberg says.
While such incentives do seem reasonable enough, he said, other proposals — such as lowering physical fitness requirements and making it easier to gain entry to the service, despite drug addiction and some diseases in the past — if implemented, could undermine combat readiness. and discipline in the army. Establishing boot camps for those willing to serve who have performed poorly on the qualification tests will help them reach the minimum entry threshold, but as a result, we may experience a decrease in the overall competence of the armed forces.
“Instead of lowering standards, the Pentagon can take a more pragmatic stance. Special attention must be paid to keeping people in the ranks of the armed forces, as did the marines. Financial bonuses, faster promotion opportunities and specific incentives to learn new skills will encourage soldiers to consider pursuing a military career. The Pentagon can also expand the pool of potential recruits by deploying more recruiting stations in areas and cities where there is traditionally low interest in serving in the armed forces, ” — analyzes the author.
Despite all these efforts, Bloomberg points out, for the foreseeable future, the US military may well have to learn how to work with fewer troops. Investments in unmanned weapons systems, artificial intelligence and precision-guided munitions could reduce manpower needs. Closer collaboration with the private sector and prudent use of commercial technology will allow the Pentagon to outsource more technical tasks, such as IT services, to civil servants and contractors. The United States must also convince regional allies, primarily NATO partners in Europe, to make a more visible contribution to collective defense.
“To face the challenges of a global scale, the US military must outnumber the armies of other countries in the world. Keeping experienced military personnel in the ranks of the army and developing new technologies can help the United States cope with the problem of replenishment without sacrificing its key strengths, ” — sums up the analyst.